Harvesting by Happenstance

First, I was foraging, or hoping to. As, a couple of days ago I found a few little oyster mushrooms growing on an old poplar log I’d selected to split, I set out tramping the acreage to see if there are more.


As for the oysters, the ones I snipped off the log were easily identifiable, upon looking them up online–and they were delicious, though only a tidbit.


Didn’t find any more today, though I only roamed uphill where Festivus the donkey beds down (he followed me, maybe both territorial and glad and curious to hang around me), and then downhill to my spring and creek where he couldn’t follow due to some barbed wire I lamely strung up a few years ago to confine my sheep. (Fat chance.)

A bounty of large black walnuts were down there from the trees growing on the marshy creekbanks–I’ll try processing them another season; I read the procedure and it’s more than I want to take on while I have to stay on the stick producing Southern Appalachian Homesteader magazine.

Anyway, I have yet to even mount the steep bluff along my frontage to look for fungi there … tried it when I first moved onto Fool Hill Farm seven years ago; there seemed to be a dearth of them in my patch of woods there, mostly pine is the problem, I guess. But that was in the spring and I was looking for morels, maybe there’s oysters and who-knows-what else this time of year.

Meanwhile, back to the actual topic of this post:

When I have an animal not originally intended to be home-raised meat–just kept as a pet or breeder–that dies suddenly from non-disease causes, I don’t hesitate to process it for some consumption use.

Two years ago, I had a couple of youngish wether goats, one of whom got its head and horns snagged between some sumac trees and the foundation of the house, paralyzed itself one night after dark. I found it there in the morning, verified it couldn’t stand, so I slit its throat nearby on the grass and caressed its head and face and soothed it while it bled out.


Got 30 pounds of lean but mild meat on the bone from it. I don’t really like “cuts” of goat, no matter the means that can be used to make it tender–it’s still never juicy; too lean. Like rabbit


So, I braised and smoked/grilled the shanks, but boned the rest and used it, along with turkey and pork fat, for hamburgers, and with the same plus livers from lambs I’d raised here, for pate de campagne.


I also had a goat, the last of three I was raising on the bottle five years ago when I was given them because their mothers were sick and couldn’t nurse or rejected them. Although I know how to cure otherwise fatal infant goat constipation (with enemas of warm, dilute dishsoap-water), this little goat suddenly got his developing and complicated kishkes twisted and expired quickly, despite my efforts to intubate his rear end.

So, he went in the freezer as presumably tender cuts to be grilled Jamaican style. May still have him, I’ll have to look. Also, the second of those bottle babies that I accidentally ran over as I was pulling into the driveway. I thought he’d gotten out of the way, but his older sibling, a doe, planted her feet and trapped him in the path of my turning truck; I didn’t realize it.

Very sad. But not so sad I didn’t also harvest him. I think. Maybe I was too sad to.

I also ran over one of my 15 or so muscovys a while back. I’d grown accustomed to the fact that chickens can and will reliably get out of your way if you’re going less than 10 or 15 miles an hour. I wrongly assumed waterfowl can too. Now I’m more careful–though the geese sometimes drag their feet, tootling and grumbling having to get out of the way. I don’t think I harvested that muscovy, not sure.

Bringing us back to the present–after months of attrition-free poultry raising–for which I think the donkey, mainly, but possibly also the four vigilant and noisy geese (not that I didn’t lose seven of my former eight the dire summer of 2016) are responsible–I’ve been losing a few to a dog or fox (my neighbor says there is a local vulpine. I’ve never seen nor heard the reputed coyotes …).

A week or so ago, I found one hen on the ground by the chicken house, snagged from where some of them roost on the outside, probably. Partially eaten, so I threw it over the hill.

Last week, the male member of my mated young Pekins flew off or got dragged off and et. As I mention in the previous post, the otherwise standoffish geese have even allowed the mourning mate to hang with them a bit.

Then she turned up missing yesterday.

The point of this meandering narrative is that, coming back up the hill from the creek to the house through the weedy lower part of my yard, I found the late duck. Blood at her neck by which she’d been grabbed and killed, but otherwise intact, no decomposition yet in the cool weather and cold overnights. A few flies and small ants on her, but I doubt many if any eggs laid destined to hatch into maggots. If any, they’re probably at that wound on the neck or by the anus, which I’ll soon excise with the rest of her innards.


In other words, I’m certainly going to harvest her for her meat. I don’t know if I’ll blanch and pluck her and roast whole or in parts, to enjoy the crisp, browned, fatty skin–or just skin her raw, debone her, use the meat in something.  Either way, I’ll also for sure roast and simmer the carcass for stock, maybe highly reduced to be gelled duck glaze to freeze in an ice cube tray to enrich sauces with and so on.

At about six months old, she may not be as tender as commercial “duckling,” so a very slow roast to well done is probably the best technique–starting in a hot oven to properly brown the skin and render out the fat, to accomplish which I will liberally slit and salt her skin all over.

She weighs a full 6-1/4 pounds “on the hoof,” so to speak. What a waste if I didn’t honor her brief and happy life here by making delicious use of her!


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